Leeds Rhinos Star Handley keen for more England chances

Ash Handley with Rhinos teammate Rhys Martin, who played for Papua new Guinea in the Nines.Ash Handley with Rhinos teammate Rhys Martin, who played for Papua new Guinea in the Nines.
Ash Handley with Rhinos teammate Rhys Martin, who played for Papua new Guinea in the Nines.
A first taste of action with the full England side, in the World Cup Nines, has left Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley hungry for more.

England’s campaign in Sydney ended at the semi-final stage when they were beaten by 22-6 by New Zealand, who went on to lose to Australia in the final.

In the group phase they defeated Wales 25-4 and France 38-4, either side of a shock 16-13 loss to Lebanon.

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“It has been great,” Handley said of his first England camp.

“It has been great to be around all the boys and be involved and just to get to know everyone.

“You can learn so much and obviously Wayne [Bennett] is a great coach and being able to play and train underneath him has been a great experience.”

Handley was not selected for England’s opening win over Wales, but played a full part on day two,

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“There were 16 players and only 13 could play,” he recalled. “A lot of rotating needed to be done, but when I got my chance I thought I went quite well in some parts.

“I really enjoyed it, I thought it was a great experience and I’d like to do it again sometime.

“It’s great to be able to test yourself against players of [New Zealand’s] calibre and to be able to see how they perform.

“To be able to share a field with players like Shaun Johnson is a great experience.”

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Handley has not been selected for the Great Britain Lions tour which begins with a Test against Tonga on Saturday, so the Nines semi-final was his last game of the year.

He said: “I’ll have a few weeks off now, then be ready to go again [with Rhinos] and push on and do even better next year - and get the team back to where it needs to be.”

Former Rhinos winger Ryan Hall is now in New Zealand with the Lions and insisted the week with England has been good preparation.

“I have not had much game time this year,” the Sydney Roosters man said.

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“The Nines is quite an exhausting format and it really did help playing in the middles for two of the games, doing what the forwards normally do.

“Full credit to them doing it on a week-by-week basis, it’s not for me - I’ll get back out to the wing.”

Hall reckons a Super League Nines competition would be a huge hit with players and fans.

He said: “I gives players that much more space and there’s been some great shows of skill.

“Super League has got to embrace that and have have a full weekend of players expressing themselves.

“You’ll get some great rugby and that’s what fans want to see, great athletes doing great things.”